Top 10 Movies of 2017

Comic Top 10 List Written and Drawn by David Yoder- except last panel by Denis St John

Top 10 (But Secretly 25) of 2017

Written Top 10 List by David Carter

I think every year at the movies is a good year. I just think that it depends on the year for what type of movie tends to get the spotlight. In my lifetime so many years stick out as having a particular theme or focal point of achievement. 1999 is the year that future trailblazers and Gen X auteurs like P.T. Anderson, The Wachowski’s, David Fincher and Spike Jonze would break out with some of the defining films of the century. 2007 is largely considered the best year of the 00’s, containing films such as Superbad, Hot Fuzz, There Will Be Blood, Zodiac and No Country for Old Men. All movies that shot for the moon and hit galaxies we hadn’t even heard of. I’ve recalled 2015 being the year that sequels, remakes and reboots hit a high point and evolution that signaled we could take shameless brand recognition and pull actual meaningful and expertly crafted art out of them.

Upon reflecting on 2017, the year that made us look like idiots for thinking things couldn’t get worse after the sobering way 2016 played out, all I could think was how much of a cinematic cry for compassion, human decency, self discovery, and love it all seemed to be. I know these are broad concepts that could be applied to so much of our film landscape, regardless of the year. However, if art, especially art meant for and consumed by the masses are supposed to be this reflection of the zeitgeist then 2017 is a full length mirror showing us who we truly are and who we strive to be.

It was also the year where movies stepped up their game and showed us that certain types of movies we thought were dead really just needed a fresh perspective (i.e. not just white dudes) and ones that had been par for the course reached dizzying highs by leaning into their strongest elements and minimizing the weaknesses.

Frankly, it was hell making this list. I saw close to 100 films from 2017 and I’d bargain more than half of them deserve to be on a list in which the only criteria was how much I personally enjoyed them. Meaning, how much the impacted me, how much the stuck with me and how much they held up upon scrutiny or subsequent rewatches. This is not about objective quality because I feel like that’s boring and produces samey looking list (although I’m guilty of having some critical darlings on here as well). So before we jump into the meat here are the various runner-up’s that I feel like people should take the time and check out while the movie goin’ season is slow and these start rolling out on VOD.

Three Star Slappers That I’ll Be Watching on Friday Nights for Years to Come

Murder on the Orient Express, Kong: Skull Island, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. (reviews here, here, here, and here)

Small Dark Films to Take a Chance On

Super Dark Times, Nocturama, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Girlfriend Day (review here), Wheelman

Films That Go For Broke

The Villainess,  Blade of the Immortal, Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Lure, BPM, Lost in London (review here)

Films that Destroyed Me Emotionally

Lucky, Step, Princess Cyd, All These Sleepless Nights, A Ghost Story

The Objectively Most Important and Entertaining Films of the Year

Get Out, Lady Bird, The Big Sick, Wonder Woman (review here, here, here, and guest review here)

The Films I Wish I Could Have Seen Before Making This List

The Florida Project, The Phantom Thread, Your Name, Coco, Wind River

And here my top 25 films of the year with some quick thoughts on the the top 10.

Top 25 (25-11)

25. Split (review here)

24. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2/Logan (review here and here)

23. mother!/I, Tonya

22. Alien: Covenant (review here)

21. Blade Runner 2049 (review here)

20. T2: Trainspotting 2 (review here)

19. Mudbound

18. Logan Lucky

17. The Lost City of Z

16. Columbus

15. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

14. John Wick: Chapter 2 (review here)

13. The Work

12. It Comes at Night (review here)

11. The World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts

10. Raw Directed by Julia Ducournau (review here)

It was a hell of year for first time outings. Get Out, Lady Bird, and The Big Sick all signal the seismic shift of what’s happening in Hollywood as of late. Movies that are so assured, complete and carry the very unique voices of their creators. However, none of those were as assured, complete and unique as Julia Ducournau’s horrific tale of carnal discovery. A movie that never once drops the ball on what it’s overarching metaphor is, while balancing so much tonal control it makes you dizzy. It’s a movie that’s as off putting as it is erotic. You may not feel as good as you would  from those aforementioned films, but you’ll walk away saying you saw something wholly unique. I can’t wait to see what Ducournau does next.

9. Good Time Directed by Ben and Josh Safdie

“After Hours as envisioned by Abel Ferrara”. That was my first thought as the machinations of this non-stop story started to unfold. The Safdies are making movies that don’t exist anymore. Capital “G” Grimey New York stories about people on the margins.  If their 2014 film Heaven Knows What plays like a heavy dramamine drip right into your veins, then Good Time is like going on a bender of whip-its, vodka and steady stream of cigarettes. But even outside of its unforgettable style, pacing, score (top 5 of the year easy) and an M80 of a performance from Robert Pattinson, it’s got things to say without coming right out and preaching them. A movie about love, systems designed to make outsiders struggle and the hierarchy of those very same outsiders. Queens as a microcosm of our society. I can only be more excited to see what they do with a 48 Hours remake.

8. The Post Directed by Steven Spielberg

It’s a list made up of favorites, so bias was always going to play a heavy part in making this list. I unequivocally believe Steven Spielberg is our greatest living filmmaker and upon his death his name should be said in the same breath as Hitchcock or Kubrick. So much can and has been said by much smarter people about the importance of this incredible movie that was rushed to production in the midst of our administration shouting down the press and threatening our 1st Amendment Rights. Though, for me the thing that makes my skull ring is how easy he makes it all look. The way he blocks a scene, the way he can control the crescendos and diminuendos of something as simple as a conversation, and of course the always motivated and only occasionally flashy use of the camera. It’s like watching Valerian’s very own Herbie Hancock blow over a blues. You can tell he’s not even thinking about, he is just existing in the song. People always doubt Spielberg or find him inauthentic, but every time he shows up and finds a way to dig into the essence of what makes us tick as humans and The Post is no different.

7. Okja Directed by Bong Joon Ho (review here)

Speaking of Spielberg, here’s one of the most buckwild films of the year from disciple (but not imitator) Bong Joon Ho. This movie can only be described as a delight. A movie that hammers home how important it is for us to communicate to each other and look past our baser instincts from time to time. If that wasn’t enough, it features some of the most striking visuals and laugh out loud funny moments of the year. The image of Tilda Swinton striking a jubilant pose announcing a competition as banners and confetti rain around her is seared into my mind. It has the best chase scene in a movie since Mad Max Fury Road and that movie didn’t involve an adorable super pig. The movie puts stark drama, comedy, slapstick, action and violence on the same plate. At first you’d be skeptical if those flavors belong in such close proximity to each other, but after you take a bite you’ll realize just how delectable that fusion of flavors is.

6. Visages Villages (Faces Places) Directed by Agnes Varda

I don’t know why Agnes Varda isn’t as recognized as the national treasure she truly is. You would think the inventor of the French New Waves supposed final film (she said Beaches of Agnes was her final film, and that was nearly 10 years and one TV series ago.) would be greeted with more fanfare but c’est la vie. Movies about mortality are always a tough pill to swallow but with Varda it becomes this beautiful and ecstatic journey into getting to know the world around you when you’re on your last leg. “Last Leg” isn’t exactly the right phrase, considering that even with her use of cane and a wheelchair, at the age of 89 Anges still has more energy and wit than most people have in their 20’s. It’d be shame to give any of this wonderful documentary away but the last 10 minutes truly is some of the most poignant cinema you will ever see. An ending that plumbs the very depths of cinematic history itself.

5. The Lego Batman Movie Directed by Chris McKay (review here)

Like all my list and rankings, when it comes to Batman movies it’s an ever shifting process based on my mood and the current standing the character itself. But I can safely say that The Lego Batman Movie is hands down my favorite Batman movie (you put up a good fight Batman Returns) and may objectively be the best Batman movie ever made. Unfortunately the playing field was never going to be level considering that the take on Batman in this movie is a celebration and deconstruction of every televised and cinematic depiction to come before it. It gets right to the nitty gritty of what makes Batman tick as character for himself and for us as the audience. It’s a heartwarming generational story about fathers and sons/daughters, and it’s a dense brick of wall to wall gags and jokes so funny (Robin: “My name is Richard but my friends call me Dick” Batman: “Well, children can be cruel”) that I spend every rewatch trying not to laugh over a joke I missed the last time by laughing over it. If the spark could be sustained and the talent stayed aboard Warner Bros. and DC would be smart to have this be their new DCEU going forward.

4. Dunkirk Directed by Christopher Nolan (review here)

I waxed poetic in my review of this movie about how this movie is a successor to Inception, Nolan’s greatest film to date, and the culmination of the man’s entire career. I also spent some time talking about how much pure, uncut cinema this movie has coursing through its veins and how it’s an experience so unique to see in its preferred 70mm format that I fear I’ll never see anything like it again. All of those things are true, but if I had the foresight to see that this tale of tooth and nail survival and unbridled kindness was going to be a definitive reflection of the mental psyche of the zeitgeist in 2017, I would have seen it four more times. I’m tearing up just remembering a shot of Tom Hardy gliding in for a landing after taking down a rival fighter pilot on an empty tank of gas, the sunset draped behind him. Knowing that he’ll be captured, but also knowing he did the right thing.

3. The Shape of Water Directed by Guillermo del Toro (guest review here)

“What am I?”

It’s what Elisa (played by the incredible Sally Hawkins) asks Giles (played by God among men Richard Jenkins) as he tries to tell her there’s no worth in risking their necks to save the fish man (Doug Jones, who needs a god damn Oscar already). It’s a big question, and one the movie never shies away from exploring. It’s a question I sit here in 2018 asking myself every single day when I crawl out of bed in the morning. A movie that wants us to look at people on the margins and see them as fleshed out, living , breathing entities with wants and desires. It’s the Merchant of Venice quote (“If you prick us, do we not bleed”) realized as entire movie that does nothing but fill me with a radiating light of joy.

Also I cannot stress enough that a lady bones down and tap dances with a fish man and it might be nominated for some Oscars, so please do yourself a favor and be a part of that magic. Guillermo del Toro forever.

2. Baby Driver Directed by Edgar Wright (review here)

“Baby, oh, baby

You look so good to me, baby

Baby, oh, baby

You are so good to me, baby”

“Just one look in your eyes

And my temperature goes sky high

I’m weak for you and can’t help it

You know I really don’t wanna help it”

“B-A-B-Y, Baby

B-A-B-Y, Baby”

Honorary #1. Twin Peaks: The Return Directed by David Lynch

I really try and not be one of those people that wants to try and take great televised works away from the medium and call them cinema. But as look on my movie shelf that holds The Decalogue, and Fanny and Alexander, or think about what Shoah and OJ: Made in America  is, it becomes clear that some projects defy the two mediums completely and there is enough wiggle room for them to fall into multiple categories. By all accounts Twin Peaks: The Return was written and shot in the same manner as an 18 hour movie would be and plays that way when you watch it. It has been shown in its entirety at the MoMA and for all of these reasons I consider it to boundary breaking cinema. Classifications aside however, this was hands down the best viewing experience of 2017 for me. Every week, I would be greeted with some new idea or image to chew on for months to come. Part 8 could be considered to be the single most buckwild hour of viewing this decade, and with a cast as incredible as this one, the cards were always going to be stacked against the competition. For all the flare of the show, Lynch and Frost never lose sight of the point that they’re trying to get across. One about the legacy of abuse and trauma we inflict upon women and children. Because for all of his weirdness and eccentricities you can look at a large chunk of Lynch’s work and tell that in the end it’s all about love. It’s no mistake the David Lynch as Agent Gordon Cole delivers the single most memorable line of the entire experience:

“ I told them to fix their hearts, or die”

1. Call Me By Your Name Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Sometimes it can just be one scene to seal a movie in your heart forever. One soul shattering and earth moving monologue delivered by our greatest soft spoken actor. No fire, No fury, just the soft caress of empathy. The speech delivered by Michael Stuhlbarg to Timothee Chalamet in the final minutes of Call Me By Your Name is to me one of the finest moments put to celluloid. A speech so simply about what we give up in our youth in the struggle to exist in the world with some semblance of comfort. A speech that hit me so hard that I sat sobbing in a crowded theater with no control over what was happening to me. The movie had made me take a step back and think about who and what I am at this very juncture in my life and what I had given up to become that person. It was too much absorb in that moment but as the days passed and the movie threaded itself into my very DNA that speech became a refrain of the most sumptuous pop song I had heard since In the Mood For Love.

I don’t make that comparison lightly. Both are hypnotic tales about a brief period where two people reaching out for each other could let there emotions run wild. While In the Mood For Love never has Tony Leung and Maggie Chung physically consummate those emotions and Call Me By Your Name most certainly does, the end result is the same in both. As Timothee Chalamet sits staring into fire place during the closing credits of the film you can tell that like Tony Leung he is reminiscing about the summer he had.

His face may not show it, but he remembers fondly.

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